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88-year-old mother testifies in murder conspiracy trial about daughter's disappearance

Jennifer Dulos' mother, Gloria Farber, testifies on day 25 of Michelle Troconis' criminal trial at Connecticut Superior Court in Stamford, Conn. Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024.
Tyler Sizemore
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Pool - Hearst Connecticut Media
Jennifer Dulos' mother, Gloria Farber, testifies on day 25 of Michelle Troconis' criminal trial at Connecticut Superior Court in Stamford, Conn. Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024.

The 88-year-old mother of Connecticut mother-of-five Jennifer Dulos testified at a murder conspiracy trial Wednesday that she has not seen or communicated with her daughter since she disappeared and was presumed by police to be murdered in 2019.

Dressed in a gray suit with scarfs, Gloria Farber didn't show much emotion as she told the jury that her daughter was supposed to meet her at her New York City apartment on May 24, 2019, after a doctor's appointment, but never showed up. She suggested Dulos would never abandon her children.

“She was always there for them," Farber testified about her daughter in the sixth week of the trial against Michelle Troconis in Stamford Superior Court in Connecticut.

Ever since Dulos vanished, Farber has had custody of her five grandchildren, who at the time ranged in age from 8 to 13.

Troconis denies allegations that she helped Dulos' estranged husband, Fotis Dulos, cover up the killing of Jennifer Dulos. At the time, Troconis was dating Fotis Dulos and living with him in Farmington, after Jennifer Dulos and the children had moved out and were living about 70 miles (113 kilometers) away in New Canaan.

Jennifer Dulos' body has never been found. Farber's testimony was part of the prosecution's effort to show her 50-year-old daughter was killed by Fotis Dulos in an attack at her New Canaan home on May 24, 2019. A state probate court declared Jennifer Dulos legally dead in October.

Fotis Dulos died by suicide in January 2020, weeks after being charged with murdering Jennifer Dulos. He denied the allegations. At the time of her disappearance, they were battling each other in contentious divorce and child custody proceedings.

Troconis has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit murder, hindering prosecution and tampering with evidence.

The case drew widespread attention and was the subject of a made-for-TV movie, Lifetime's "Gone Mom." Jennifer Dulos was a member of a wealthy New York family whose father, the late Hilliard Farber, founded his own brokerage firm. She also was a niece by marriage of fashion designer Liz Claiborne. Fotis Dulos was a luxury home builder originally from Greece.

Troconis, a dual American and Venezuelan citizen, has described herself as a co-founder of horse-riding therapy programs in different parts of the world who once had her own TV production company in Argentina and hosted a snow-sports show for ESPN South America.

Prosecutors Sean McGuinness and Michelle Manning rested the state's case Wednesday morning after Farber's testimony. Troconis' lawyer, Jon Schoenhorn, immediately made a motion for an acquittal, which was denied by Judge Kevin Randolph.

Schoenhorn argued there was no evidence that Troconis knew about Fotis Dulos' alleged plans for the killing beforehand, or afterward when she accompanied him on trips that prosecutors said were intended to destroy evidence in the case.

McGuiness disagreed, and Randolph ruled there was enough evidence for the jury to make their own conclusions on the charges.

Police alleged Fotis Dulos drove his employee’s pickup truck to a New Canaan park that morning, rode a bicycle to Jennifer Dulos’ house, attacked her in the garage and drove off with her in her Chevy Suburban, which was later found abandoned at the park.

Later the same day, Troconis accompanied Fotis Dulos to Hartford, where he disposed of several garbage bags in random locations — a trip partially recorded by surveillance cameras.

Police found some of the bags and said they contained clothing, zip ties and other items containing Jennifer Dulos’ DNA. Some of the items, including a shirt and bra, had blood-like stains on them. Some items had Fotis Dulos’ DNA on them, and one bag tested positive for Troconis’ DNA, a state forensics expert testified at the trial.

Schoenhorn said Troconis had no idea what was in the bags. He also said the match with Troconis' DNA was found on a microscopic sample, and Fotis Dulos could have touched her and later spread her DNA to one of the bags.

Police also said Troconis helped Fotis Dulos write up a timeline of their activities to prepare for potential questioning by police. Troconis told police she only did that at the request of Fotis Dulos and his lawyer. And she also went with him when he had the employee's truck cleaned and detailed at a car wash, prosecutors said.

And on the morning of Jennifer Dulos' disappearance, Troconis answered Fotis Dulos' cellphone, which he had left at his Farmington home. Prosecutors suggested that was part of the murder conspiracy to give Fotis Dulos an alibi. Schoenhorn denied the allegation.

Police interviewed Troconis three times in 2019. They said she initially lied that Fotis Dulos was home the morning of May 24, but acknowledged that wasn't true in a subsequent interview and said she didn't see him that morning.

Also charged in the case is Kent Mawhinney, a friend and former lawyer of Fotis Dulos. He pleaded not guilty and awaits trial on a conspiracy to commit murder charge.

The defense began to present its witnesses Wednesday. Testimony in the trial is supposed to finish on Friday or Monday.

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